Someone I know posted the following quote on Facebook today along with the comment “I couldn’t agree more”
“If God doesn’t punish America, he’s going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” Ruth Bell Graham, wife of Evangelist Billy Graham.
For those who are not familiar with my history, I have a background in religion and philosophy (I trained to be a pastor) and, even though I am no longer a Christian, I know enough about it to write knowledgeably about this.
I have a few thoughts about the above quote about and why I couldn’t agree less with it. The most obvious problem with the quote is its foundation on a belief in an invisible and all-powerful being who controls the universe and has a beef to pick with humanity when they don’t follow his capricious whims. Let’s go ahead and assume that this assumption is correct and that there really is a God who controls the universe. If God does exist, why would anyone in their right mind ever want to treat him with anything other than disdain? If he really is in control then he is the cause of all suffering and pain and sorrow that surround us every day. A lot of people who believe in him try to get around this fact and use a lot of sophisticated arguments about why people suffer and why there is so much sickness and poverty and pain in the world but none of these arguments hold up when pressed. If God exists and he is in any way involved in the course of human existence, he is ultimately responsible for whatever happens and humanity, his creation, should hold him accountable for all of the pain and misery that surround us. Humanity should not have to cower in fear, waiting for God to get angry and smite something in his wrath. If the above statement were true, then God really is like a drunken parent who forces their child to live in constant fear and uncertainty about what might set off a severe punishment. If God is real, he should already be apologizing to Sodom and Gomorrah.
Secondly, this attitude assumes that certain people know what God thinks about something and that they can speak for him. People who hold themselves up as qualified to speak for the almighty have, time and again, proven themselves to be dangerous and delusional. Believing that God is angry and that he should destroy every living creature in a country is dangerous thinking. It puts the person making the claim on an equal footing with God and declares them worthy of passing judgement on the rest of humanity for whatever perceived grievance that person has against whatever group deemed worthy of punishment. When a person makes a statement like this, they are claiming to be as smart and as justified as God himself in passing judgement on something. From a Christian perspective, this is a huge mistake. Jesus himself said, “Do not judge or you, too, will be judged” (Matthew 7:1) and went on to make it very obvious that those who follow him were to not stand in judgement of others (by the way, judging others was what the religious leaders of his day did and Jesus was calling them out on their bad behavior). It seems unwise to me that someone who claims to follow Jesus would choose to act in such an un-Christlike way.
Third, this attitude entirely dismisses the Christian belief in grace and forgiveness. The entire message of Christianity is that Jesus, who was fully God and fully human, came to earth and was crucified, died and resurrected on the third day as an atoning sacrifice for humanity. God’s grace and forgiveness is central to the faith of someone who claims to be a Christian and statements like the one above fly in the face of that central tenet. Attitudes like the one above are prevalent among most people I know who call themselves Christians and it was my desire to not be associated with that kind of attitude that contributed to me to examining my beliefs in God and Christianity in the first place. Eventually, I realized that God is not real and that those who claimed to follow him were, in reality, following superstitions and myths designed to control the behavior of people through fear and hope in some sort of afterlife or paradise.
There are many people out there who sincerely believe that God is angry and that he wants to punish those he is angry with. They look at events that happen around them and read their belief of a coming judgement into those events. It’s sloppy thinking and even worse theology. I would encourage them to rethink their understanding of God. If he is real, would you really want to affiliate yourself with someone like that?